The Crosby mansion in Brewster is a monument to an earlier time, a time of opulence, grandeur and painstaking craftsmanship.
Standing tall on a rise of land with sweeping views of Cape Cod bay, the three-story mansion is also a monument to romance. It is the legacy of a man who went west to make his fortune and returned to the cape with a bride 20 years his junior, for whom he built the mansion called Tawasentha.
Albert Crosby was born in 1823 and raised in a modest cape house in Brewster that still stands where the mansion is, as he had the mansion, in effect, wrap around his old family homestead. Albert moved to Chicago and made his fortune producing distilled alcohol . He sold this to the army during the Civil War, and sales of this non-taxed medicinal alcohol made him a wealthy man.
Albert spared no expense for the three story, 35 room home overlooking the Bay. Completed in 1888, the home was named “Tawasentha”, probably after Longfellow’s poem, “Song of Hiawatha”. It was built in the grand style of Chicago’s Gold Coast Mansions and featured a 60 foot viewing tower, 15 fireplaces with imported tile, hand carved mahogany and oak walls, a parlor fashioned after one at the Palace of Versailles, an entrance duplicating one at Buckingham Palace, a two-story billiard room, marble sinks and floors in the baths, and gas lighting and heating throughout. Because of its heightened construction, the Old Colony Railroad laid a side track to the site. The mansion was designed for the lavish entertaining his young wife, Matilda, loved. Legend has it that when her soirees became too much for him, Albert would slip away to the old homestead and sit peacefully in his favorite rocking chair.
The mansion’s crowning glory was a two-story 75×50 foot art gallery filled with valuable paintings and statuary, including works by Childe Hassan, El Greco, Albert Bierstadt and other famous artists. After Albert’s death in 1906 at the age of 83, Matilda opened the art gallery to the public one day a week in summer, apparently in return for the town’s not raising her taxes. The gallery was legendary, and a number of famous people were said to have visited, including the Duke of Wales, Helen Keller and Samuel Clemens.